Developed with input from sheep and beef farmers and rural professionals as part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), the approach has been proven to support farmers to make changes in a range of areas such as farm systems and the environment.
B+LNZ has adopted the Action Group extension and adoption model to ensure all sheep and beef farmers have the opportunity to benefit from the success of this small group learning approach.
Each Action Group is eligible for kick-start funding, which is pooled for the group to pay for their facilitator and their choice of expert input.
Questions and Answers
Action Groups are made up of seven to nine farm businesses. Farmers work together with the support of professional facilitation, expert input and kick-start funding to improve on-farm productivity or to address environmental challenges. Strong peer-to-peer learning and group support is another significant benefit.
The principles of the Action Network model have also been used to support farmers setting up Catchment Communities groups.
Action Groups enable farm businesses to work together with like-minded farmers to learn from experts and also from other farmers, focusing on the topics and expertise that are most relevant to their businesses.
The small group setting and facilitator support helps build trust and confidence, providing members with the opportunity to ask the questions they want to ask, gain learnings specific to their farm business and to put real change into practice to improve productivity and sustainability.
Action Groups enable farmers, rural professionals and the sector to adapt to changes in government regulations, help farmers to better tell their stories and meet the changing views of consumers and the wider public.
Farm businesses committed to an Action Group can expect:
- A professionally-facilitated, results-focused small group supporting their business through change.
- Less risk to the farm business with kick-start funding and external support.
- Help finding solutions to support the farm business in a changing world.
- Connection to trusted, independent expertise.
- Access to B+LNZ resources, tools, and expertise.
- To tap into the knowledge and experience of other farmers.
Farmers can connect with other farmers interested in forming an Action Group in various ways. Several farmers may get together to form an Action Group, they may already be part of a discussion group which they turn into an Action Group, or they may be approached by a rural professional who is pulling together a group.
The steps are:
- An idea, opportunity or challenge is identified.
- Farmers are connected.
- The Action Group is formed and facilitator appointed.
- A Group extension plan is drawn up.
- The extension plan is approved by a B+LNZ Extension Manager.
- Planned activities/expert presentations occur.
- The group extension plan is reviewed.
- Actions on farm.
The Action Group model is based on extensive research, farm pilots and input from farmers and rural professionals across New Zealand. It puts farmers in the driving seat, deciding what they want to learn and achieve from their group. The role of the trained facilitator is critical to putting these plans into action, providing the organisation, communication and ‘ground work’ to enable the group to develop its plan and achieve its goals. Members draw up an extension plan, outlining what objectives the group wants to achieve. Each farm business will also create a short farm action plan with their own goals, objectives and actions relevant to their farm business, this is seen as best practice. These measures, together with the group dynamic, support keeping each member business on target and maximise the benefits they gain from being part of the group.
Action Groups are made up of seven to nine farm businesses who have a shared area of focus. It could be a broad topic, such as breeding and genetics, or something specific to the needs of the individuals. Often several members may attend from each business – such as farming couples or farm managers. Farmers are at the core of the Action Group network.
- Decide which trained facilitator they would like to use and appoint a lead farmer.
- Determine the structure and rules of their individual action group and decide how the group spends its funds.
- Identify farm business opportunities that are of benefit to their group and include these in the group’s extension plan.
The facilitator will help the group form and work effectively together, guiding farmer members in deciding how they want to run their Action Group. This will include:
- Organising and running activities on behalf of the group as defined in the group’s extension plan. This includes arranging meetings and venues and communicating all necessary information to members.
- Sourcing and booking experts to present on topics identified by group members and briefing experts to help them to focus on the most relevant topics for members.
- Facilitating at group meetings, including making connections/ensuring all members get the opportunity to participate in discussions and expert presentations.
- Working with members to review the group’s extension plan and individual members’ farm action plans to help ensure targets are being met.
- Lead farmers are like the ‘captain’ of a sports team. They represent the Action Group and are responsible for being the point of contact between the facilitator, the Action Group and B+LNZ.
- They are also responsible for submitting the Extension Plan and coordinating group finances.